For those new to Animal Crackers, let me introduce you to Professor Steven Best: he is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Texas Tech University. He is an aggressive Animal Rights activist who is also a self-appointed "Press Officer" for the Animal Liberation Press Office, a propaganda organ for the terrorist group ALF (Animal Liberation Front).
In the curious world of his mind, Professor Best has come to see himself as a 21st Century incarnation of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, a member of the underground railroad and the kind of person who pulled off the Boston Tea Party. The difference: Dr. Best is trying to free all animals from what he calls human exploitation, which he believes to be the next step in the "moral evolution" of humans.
To Dr. Best, animals have an intrinsic right not to be constrained under human dominion, and I suspect he would argue that if it is immoral to do something to a human being, it is equally immoral to do it to an animal. Which means that it is immoral to hunt animals, to eat them, to force them into bondage, to keep them in pens or cages, and to perform experiments on them (curiously, Dr. Best keeps a [spayed or neutered?] dog as a pet because it is comfortable . . .).
On March 31, Dr. Best presented a lecture at TCU, an event that was well-documented through the efforts of Douglas Lucas, a TCU student. In the question and answer session that followed his talk, Mr. Lucas asked Professor Best if the professor's dog and a stranger — a human being — were in a burning house, and Dr. Best could save only one, which would it be?
Dr. Best answered that he'd save his dog, because he knew it and liked it, it was a part of his family — an answer which mirrored an answer he gave several months ago to a stunned audience in Iowa to much the same question. As I wrote then:
What Dr. Best is saying is that the personal pleasure his dog brings him trumps the value of your mother, your child, your spouse, your sibling, and he'd rather see any one of them burned to a crisp than lose his dog. Assuming, of course, that they haven't had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Best and impressing on him that they are every bit as worthy as is his dog.
Now, however shocking Prof. Best's decision-making process might strike you, it is perfectly consistent with his beliefs, and it is a logical outcome of attempting to live within the Animal Rights fantasy utopia.
To Prof. Best and his AR ilk, a dog and a human are equally valuable, and to place one above the other is to be a "speciesist" — a pejorative term used by Animal Rights/Animal Liberationists to force a false parallel with racism. Prof. Best et al. believe that just as it is wrong to oppress and exploit on the basis of racial differences, so too it is wrong to oppress and exploit on the basis of species differences.
(In Dr. Best's world, of course, oppression and exploitation is what he says they are . . . I think that Dr. Best might claim that any time a human being exercises control over an animal, that animal is being abused, exploited, oppressed or tortured . . .except for his [spayed or neutered?] pet dog, which is comfortable . . . .)
Similarly, when it comes to the distribution of benefits, the egalitarian, anti-speciesist credo is that one shouldn't discriminate on the basis of racial or species differences. So when it comes time to divvy up medical supplies, habitat, shelter and food, animals shouldn't be discriminated against simply because they are non-human. They have as much right to benefits and services as do humans.
So — no being is more valuable than another — Dr. Best's (spayed or neutered?) dog and your child are equally valuable.
If humans and dogs are equal, and "that" a life is saved is more important than "which" life is saved, Dr. Best is free to make his lifesaving decision on the basis of whatever whim tickles his tofu fancy. And since his dog brings him pleasure and your child does not, his dog becomes more valuable to him than your child is to him. Hence his decision in its favor.
Prof. Best's ethic is the "me first" ethic — an ethic which doesn't require him to measure the consequences of his actions against anything other than what gives him personal pleasure.
It is the self-indulgence of the egocentric masquerading as a lofty moral principle. Or so I would argue.